Faced with disrupted supply chains and steep revenue declines due to the coronavirus pandemic, one zoo is considering a drastic measure: turning some of its residents into food.
The longer that the coronavirus lockdowns continue and the more dire financial situations become, the more realistic it is that Neumünster Zoo in northern Germany will have to consider its absolute, last resort plan: slaughtering some of its zoo animals to feed others.
The Neumünster Zoo, home to more than 700 animals and more than 100 species, has drafted an emergency plan listing which animals would be euthanized to cut costs, and in what order, zoo director Verena Kaspari told German news agency Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA).
Though it’s unclear which animals would be slaughtered first, a polar bear named Vitus – which stands nearly 12 feet tall – would be the last animal to go.
“If – and this is really the worst, worst case of all – if I no longer have any money to buy feed, or if it should happen that my feed supplier is no longer able to supply due to new restrictions, then I would slaughter animals to feed other animals,” Kaspari told the news agency.
Kaspari said she would rather euthanize the zoo’s animals than have them starve.
CNN has reached out to Neumünster Zoo for comment.
German zoos in crisis
Now that the Neumünster Zoo is no longer generating revenue from visitors due to the national shutdown enacted on March 15, the zoo is operating solely through donations, Kaspari told DPA.
The German government has started rolling out an economic rescue package worth up to €750 billion ($825 billion) – among the largest relief packages launched anywhere in the world. The package includes measures to spur lending to businesses, take stakes in companies and support furloughed workers, though it’s unclear whether zoos are receiving funds.
“We’re an association and don’t get any city money, and all the state money we’ve applied for so far hasn’t arrived yet,” Kaspari told DPA.
The Association of Zoological Gardens (VdZ), a Berlin-based zoo association with members in Germany, Switzerland, Austria and Spain, has asked Chancellor Angela Merkel for €100 million in emergency aid. VdZ represents 56 zoos in Germany, including Neumünster Zoo.
The association said in a letter to the country’s government that many of the animals in its member zoos are endangered species and a part of international conservation breeding programs.
“A possible loss of this valuable animal population would be a bitter setback for our struggle to conserve biodiversity and would therefore amount to a catastrophe,” VdZ President Jörg Junhold said in a statement.
The association noted that unlike other facilities, zoos can’t shut down or limit operations to cut down on losses.
Animals still have to be fed and cared for, often an expensive endeavor.
CNN’s Nadine Schmidt and Claudia Otto contributed to this report.